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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Explaining Processes in the Workplace is as simple as making Date Loaf Candy (Recipe follows)

Sometimes I ask my college business students to write out their instructions for a computer trick that they have just learned.

"This is how we learn to use the computer," I report.  (I gather these tips to grade and learn all I can but I don't tell them that.)

But gathering computer tricks is not my grading goal when I read the papers.  I analyze how well the student can explain a process to someone else, and then I try the process. If it works, he/she explained it just fine.

The proof is in the execution, isn't it?

To vary this routine, I sometimes ask them what their favorite dish is that someone else makes for them.

The enthusiasm for this assignment is greater than the one about sharing computer recipes.  (That's really sort of what it is.)

They loved sweet potato souffle, Oreo pie, chicken and dumplings, all kinds of macaroni and cheese and assorted pies.

Then, I tell them my recipe for fudge which leaves them salivating, although it's the Hershey cocoa fudge recipe that is easily accessible on the web.

A recipe that is less common is one for Date Loaf Candy, which was a winter treat for farmers long ago who had their own cream, fresh-churned butter, and kept dried dates and enough sugar to make this satisfying treat that calls for a damp dish cloth (flour sack) and, yes, a lump of butter.

After some practice I discovered that a lump of butter was really about 3-4 tablespoons of butter, and although it seems unbelievable this recipe does not call for Vanilla Extract. I tried it once and it didn't help the taste at all.

So, here's my process piece that you can make to find out if I can explain a process.  Tip:  The candy is not magazine-page beautiful, but it is astonishingly tasty and satisfying--rich in taste and rich in fiber.

Date Loaf Candy

What you need:
A damp T-towel that you are prepared to see stained and might want to throw away after the candy is made
A large can of Pet Evaporated Milk--the recipe calls for 1 Cup, and there's a smidge extra that you can use for your afternoon coffee
2 cups of sugar
1 10 ounce package of chopped dates (If you buy the whole ones, even pitted, they aren't as good.  They're tough and hard to chew and don't soften as well in the cooking.)
4 tablespoons of butter (real butter)
1 plus cup of pecans

In a tallish but heavy-bottomed sauce pan so there's room enough for this mixture to boil up, bring to a slow boil the sugar and the Pet evaporated milk.  Add the dates as the sugar is cooking.  Stir gently.  Bring slowly up to a soft ball stage, which you can determine when droplets of it land in a cup of cold water and harden to a tacky touch.  Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and the nuts. 

 Then, lay out your damp cotton cloth that can breathe (that's the point) on your counter top or a cookie baking pan.  Pour candy onto moist towel in log shape.  Cover sides of candy with cloth and form to about a 5 inch width loaf.  Place on the back porch where it's cool or any room in your house that is the coldest spot.  Let harden to a chewy texture.  Then, shift the whole loaf to a strong piece of wax paper and additionally cover with tin foil.  Slice to serve when your favorite TV program is on.

You can refrigerate, but it's harder to cut and chew.

That's the best recipe for Date Loaf Candy I know.  Do you think you can make it?  If so, then the process was adequately explained, which is the proof for being able to share a recipe for the computer or any other workplace function with someone who wants to learn it.

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